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Chambo Fish (Oreochromis lidole)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 142510146

RIPPLE Africa Lake Malawi Fish Conservation Project

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 142510146) - Chambo Fish - Awarded $12,000 on January 27, 2015

Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and the most diverse freshwater lake in the world, but it is suffering badly from overfishing. Malawi's population has more than doubled in the last 30 years-from 6 million to over 15 million people-which has put food supplies under huge pressure. Fish provides 70% of the protein in Malawian diets; however, fish catches in Lake Malawi have fallen from 14 kilos per head per year in the 1970's to less than 4 kilos today.

In order to increase the numbers of fish caught, fishermen are using longer nets - up to 3,000 meters long with smaller mesh sizes - less than an inch. Worse still, mosquito nets with tiny mesh sizes are being used on the lakeshore. The result is that small fish are being caught before they have a chance of developing into adults and breeding, and eggs are being damaged in the shallows. A major fish caught and eaten is the endangered cichlid, Oreochromis lidole - known locally as the Chambo Fish.

Migratory fishermen from other areas of the lake where fish stocks are even lower are harvesting fish by whatever means, to the detriment of local people. In the Nkhata Bay District, 80% of fishermen operate without a fishing permit and until now there has been little attempt at conservation of fish stocks. As a consequence, the Oreochromis lidole ( known locally as the chambo fish) is now on the IUCN red list of endangered species and other species will soon follow.

RIPPLE Africa have worked with the local communities in the Nkhata Bay District to help then address this situation in order to halt the decline in fish stocks. The project has the following aims:

  • To allow endangered fish to grow and breed in Lake Malawi by introducing a 4 month closed fishing season for the Oreochromis lidole
  • To introduce a local permit system and enforce the national permit system and fine anyone fishing without a permit, thereby reducing the numbers of fishermen who are catching the Oreochromis lidole
  • To confiscate illegal fishing nets, ensuring that only those with larger mesh sizes are used in this area
  • To stop the practice of using drag nets which use small mesh sizes near to shore, so cause lots of damage to eggs and small fish in the shallows
  • To stop the use of mosquito nets for fishing - these catch tiny fish and damage eggs
  • To educate local fishermen about the dangers of overfishing and of catching fish that are too small and therefore preventing them from breeding
  • To introduce new Fish Conservation Committees who work with the District Fisheries Department to enforce bylaws and ensure that offenders are fined or prosecuted
  • To work in partnership with the District Fisheries Department, local chiefs and community members to ensure commitment at all levels

RIPPLE Africa funds the operating costs of the Fish Conservation Committees, the education programme and the costs of policing and prosecuting offenders. Although we have the full support of Malawi's Minister for Agriculture and Water Management, and the Director of Fisheries, lack of government funds mean that there are only two Fisheries Department staff in the area to ensure that the bylaws are observed.

A 40km stretch of Lake Malawi is now protected and we are currently working to introduce the project into adjacent areas with the full support of the District Fisheries Department. We now have 33 Fish Conservation Committees made up of local people monitoring the fishing practices at 113 beach landing sites where fishermen land their catch and more committees are in the process of being trained up.

We are protecting 45 chambo fish breeding areas saving millions of baby fish and there have been a number of successful prosecutions of fishermen who are fishing without a local permit or using illegal nets and fishing gear and this is sending a powerful message to fishing communities along the lake shore.


Project 142510146 location - Malawi, Africa